Wednesday, 26 March 2014

If you're a Labour member and you care about the EU, you're in the wrong party.

Rather than writing a big introduction arguing that Nick Clegg won the EU debate this evening, I'm just going to do an *insert debate about the debate here*. For me, we could argue until we're blue in the face about whether Nick or Nigel won, but realistically I'm a LibDem and it's probably clear who I'd support. The issue for me is wider than that.

The issue for me is about who is likely to be Prime Minister after the General Election in May next year. Whilst I'm not a betting man, I'd bet that the man stepping onto the steps of No. 10 pretending he has a mandate despite his super slim majority/coalition will be either Ed Miliband or David Cameron. I'm a LibDem through and through, but I'd hazard a guess that we might not get a landslide this time. So it's important, isn't it, that we know what they think about things?

Ham Cam, (he's actually 40% reconstituted pork meat, after all), whilst I'm not an avid supporter has made his view clear with the legislation that Govt have approved. A referendum before any further transfer or powers. A referendum on any new treaty. So far, so good.

So, what about PM in waiting Ed Miliband? Well, he's apparently supportive of our position in the EU, so supportive that during tonight's debate he was nowhere to be seen. Just like reforming the House of Lords, just like reforming our broken voting system, when it comes to the rub, Ed and his party make all the right noises but refuse to stand up and be counted.

I know countless good, principled people who joined Labour and see it as a movement. I have a deep respect for these people, but I also have a message for them. Your leader is doing you a disservice. If, like me, you're pro-European as well as pro-reform of the EU. If, like me, you're concerned that we're risking millions of British jobs by flirting with exit. If these things are true, demand that Ed hears your voice and does something about it.

We are currently standing at a precipice, with anti-EU scaremongers about to win EU elections and soil our pitch within Europe for another four years. Now's the time for Ed Miliband to take a role in this debate and stand up for our continued membership of the EU.

I'm not holding my breath, and neither should you. If you care about this as much as I do, join the LibDems and stand up unabashedly for our position in Europe and the world.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

God Hates Fags : My brush with Fred Phelps

It was reported a few days ago that Fred Phelps was terminally ill, and it's been reported today that he's died. For the lucky and uninitiated, Fred Phelps was the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church - a small church from Kansas who have been picketing various things for the past twenty years, warning people of the sins of homosexuality.

The way that I've described that almost reduces what they do. What they actually did, time and time again, was turn up at the funerals of soliders with signs like these...

Charming, no? Fred Phelps and his church have targeted grieving people to put forward their view that God hates America because America accepts gays. There's some irony, in that America isn't all that accepting of gays, and so if we were to consider Sweden, goodness knows what would happen. 

So, cut to 2009. Plans were released by the Westboro Baptist Church to picket a performance of The Laramie Project in Basingstoke. The Laramie Project is a piece of theatre close to my heart, and close to the hearts of many LGBT+ people, because it's the story of Matthew Sherpard, a gay teen who was picked up by some guys pretending to be attracted to him, driven to the city limits, beaten almost to death then left there, tied to a fence. Matthew died some time later after slipping into a coma. 

The idea that fundamentalists from another country should come here and spread hate makes me intensely uncomfortable, and so at seventeen I was part of a counter-protest outside that production. It's a point of principle for me that people have freedom of speech, but it's also a point of principle that when minorities are targeted - and when the memory of a young person is tarnished - it's only right that somebody is there, to shout louder and prouder. 

The news that Fred Phelps is dead has led to some people thanking God. I don't thank God. I hope that this troubled man is at peace. I hope that he can see, for a time, the impact that he had during his time on earth. I hope that in his heaven, he meets Matthew Shepard and can look him in the eye. I hope that it gives his family a chance to think about what they're doing. I hope that he's forgiven. 

And so, where now? We'll never be able to stop people like Fred Phelps and his group, preaching hate and intolerance. There really is nowt so queer as folk. But, what we can do, is make sure that where young people are targeted because of who they are - when they're belittled and denegrated - that those people always have somebody shouting for them and backing them up. 

Rather than thanking God for anything, I'm taking this opportunity to donate to EACH, a not for profit organisation providing practical solutions in tackling homophobia and transphobia in my area. Unlike Stonewall, they support all members of our community and look at how they can be proactive in changing culture in schools and businesses. So, here's one for you, Pastor Phelps.  

Below, watch Matthew Shepard's mother, Judy talking to Ellen Degeneres about her son's life and what she's been doing since his death. It's incredibly moving.